You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to.” Let’s NOT call the whole thing off!
Last Friday’s #HCSMEU conversation brought up differences regarding healthcare and pharma marketing social conversations in Europe and the U.S, both in style and function. I have participated in all the healthcare Twitter Chats for over a year now and wanted to share some differences that may be helpful to those communicating across the pond. This is not an attempt to make any way right or wrong, as that would defeat the purpose of this post, which is to enhance the global conversation!
For a summary and listing of all the healthcare and pharma chats, please see our Resource Hub for Healthcare Communications and Social Media Professionals.
Andrew Spong, co-founder and moderator of the European discussion #HCSMEU with Silja Chouquet, will tell you that #HCSMEU is democratic and belongs to the community. What does this mean? Everyone has an equal voice from students to senior leadership in some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. My impression from participation in the #HCSMEU chat is that the value of an idea is greater than a title.
This leads to a difference in the way various chats are initiated. In #HCSMEU, it had not been typical for people to introduce themselves, beyond a friendly greeting. In #HCSM, on Sunday nights, participants are asked to give their name, title and affiliation before the chat gets going. This is pretty much part and parcel of American culture. Think about when you meet someone in the States–one of the first questions normally asked is “What do you do?” When Dana Lewis, moderator of #HCSM visited Andrew Spong in Europe, they discussed #HCSMEU adopting the #HCSM approach and #HCSMEU now also asks participants to introduce themselves. However, the trend seems to have gravitated back to the original way for most #HCSMEU folks. Why? It would be great to hear thoughts from both the EU and American perspective!
I also recently wrote about the importance of saying “thank you” in social media which brings up another difference. I have noticed many European followers will provide very personal thank you notes privately in a DM (Direct Message) on Twitter, where most American followers will do so publicly in the stream. Therefore, more European followers follow directly, and not via lists. (If someone does not follow you directly on Twitter, you cannot send them a private Direct Message. A clue is to look at follower-following ratios, but that is another post!)
#SOCPHARM weekly on Wednesday nights at 8 pm EST also has a once a month early morning chat at 8 am to be inclusive of European participation, so you will find a mix.
The way topics are generated also differs across the chats. #HCSMEU has an open google doc wiki where three questions can be added on a first-come, first-served basis. #HCSM and #SOCPHARM ask that questions be submitted in advance to the moderator who will then choose among the submissions.
The biggest difference that came up in last week’s #HCSMEU chat is the fact that in Europe, DTC advertising is not allowed, so “promotional” is not part of the conversation. The culture clash that ensued in last Friday’s #HCSMEU chat was because a question posed by an American participant in the #HCSMEU chat was found to be too “promotional” by one of the European participants. The democratic system of the chat allowed the question, which then caused the participants to question the way questions are managed. Would the question have been approved for discussion in #HCSM or #SOCPHARM or would it have been considered “promotional”?
I think it is incredible that today we can even exchange ideas like this globally in real time all because of Twitter. In a few years, the global conversation will continue to evolve and this post may be antiquated. In the meantime, let’s acknowledge, appreciate and learn from our differences. Adopt to the culture of the conversation, there is so much to learn!
The above video is from a series of videos by Aurora Health PR, @aurorahealthpr, entitled, “We Hate Social Media,” which is based on British humor! This video also raised some cultural differences within the EU; if you don’t get it, it is meant to be sarcastic ironic! Neil Crump explains his series to pharma here, “We Hate Social Media.”